The Best Tour Operator Booking Channels in 2014 [New Research]

19 Sep 2014     |    Taz Bareham

Using the right channels to distribute your products is imperative to the success of any tour or activity business. But with a multitude of options out there, figuring out which ones to invest in can be difficult.

That’s why we ran an industry survey to Australian and American tour operators, to set benchmarks that tour businesses can compare themselves to.

Here’s a brief summary of the results.

Your website is the best booking channel

For both Australian & American tour operators, the company’s own website was the best channel for generating awareness and bookings by far.

  • Almost all respondents said that their website was an effective source of bookings.
  • Two thirds have over 20% of their total bookings coming from their website.




It was also a popular method for taking bookings – either through a contact form or a booking form that allows customers to check availability and book themselves in.

It’s worth nothing that American tour operators are further along in adopting booking technology, with real-time bookings coming in 3rd place as a booking method (compared to 5th place for their Australian counterparts).

Resellers bring incremental gains

While both American & Australian tour operators say other booking channels were effective at generating awareness of their business, for the most part they only contribute to 5% or less of total bookings. This suggests that consumers may learn of the tour operator’s business from different channels, but prefer to book directly on the tour operator’s website.

Most tour operators are relying on their own websites to bring them the majority of their bookings, while dipping their hands in different channels to contribute to incremental booking revenue.

When it comes to commission, travel agents were the highest paid, with the most American & Australian tour operators willing to pay over 20% commission per booking.

Review sites are a must

Review sites like TripAdvisor came second place in terms of generating the most bookings for tour operators.

However, only 3 out of 4 Australian tour operators are listed on review sites, in comparison to 4 out of 5 American tour operators.

For whatever reason, American tour operators say that review sites are contributing to more bookings than their Australian counterparts. This may be because there’s more competition in America, which prompts consumers to visit review sites in order to make their final decision.

If you are interested in accessing the detailed results, click on the links below. We examine the effectiveness of each individual channel and provide suggestions on what you can do.